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American Cancer Society birthday cake, Round 2: The ACS has its say

August 7, 2009 |  1:57 pm

The American Cancer Society wasn't altogether happy with our coverage of its new official birthday cake, so I agreed to talk with one of itsrepresentatives by phone to clarify a few points. Colleen Doyle, the organization's nutrition and physical activity director, said the society was certainly not making the claim that this was a cancer-fighting cake, which may have been the impression people got from the title of our post: "A cancer-fighting cake? That may be oversell. (But hey, it tastes good.)." Yes, we overstepped it there.

"This isn't a health food -- it's cake, it's dessert," Doyle said. "Certainly, we don't think this cake helps fight cancer. What we wanted to do, along with this birthday cake campaign that we're doing ... was to give people an example of a cake that tastes good but is still better for them." In that sense, she says, the birthday cake angle is symbolic -- eat right, and you'll live longer and celebrate more birthdays. "We would not encourage people to eat cake, any kind of cake, on a regular basis," she adds.

On the issue of sugars, Doyle said that at least when you're adding sugar from natural sources such as fruits and vegetables, you are also getting other good things along with the sugars -- like vitamins and minerals and phytonutrients. Point taken. You're not just getting empty calories.

Doyle also said that it was incorrect  to state, as I did, that "sucrose is sucrose is sucrose, whether it comes in white bags or red beets." Sucrose, she said, is not found in fruits and vegetables. The sugars in fruits and vegetables are fructose and glucose.

This last part is just not true, and it was surprising to hear it said.

Sucrose (the regular white sugar we buy in bags at the grocery store) is commercially extracted from sugar cane and sugar beet and is the predominant transport sugar in other plants, too. Maple sugar and plant sap in general are chock full of sucrose. And sucrose certainly is in red beets. Fructose and glucose are in plants, as well -- fructose is particularly abundant in fruits, though again, there's sucrose there also. 

-- Rosie Mestel

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